For those who are familiar with Kutchh, and its people, there is no doubt that it is one of the most active hotbeds of entrepreneurship. A lot of the business in India’s financial capital, Mumbai, is in the hands of the ‘kutchhis’ (those from Kutchh). Many of India’s largest companies and financial heavyweights are from this region, while Surat has been a force to reckon with in the global diamond trade. Amidst all this, one of the most interesting group that I have come across are the craftspeople and artisans working with traditional methods of craft – textiles, metal, wood, leather etc.
Beyond the timeless creative wealth that traditional craft creates, a conversation with one such craftsman – a handloom weaver – highlighted to me the value of crafts as a force of entrepreneurship. While talking about the world in general, his choices in life etc., he said that the strongest reason for him to stick to his family’s handloom tradition was the fact that he was an entrepreneur. He was his own boss, not reporting to anyone else, and his fortunes not subject to the whims and fancies of some better-educated higher-up in “a company”. To him, the sense of dignity from creating his own products and running his own trade was far more important than ‘earning more in a safe job’. An important learning to keep in mind during these times of hectic corporatization of Indian business.
The other aspect that is specifically important to the fashion / lifestyle products sector is the diversity of product base and the product development edge it provides the industry. The product development, design and merchandising capability is a backbone for the lifestyle / fashion / soft goods industry in India, that keeps it in the global competitive arena despite wheezing infrastructure, rising costs and other competitive inefficiencies.